Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Unpacking Google’s post-cookie roadmap announcement

By Ben Foster, Director of Digital at The Kite Factory

Will Google’s latest Chrome update rewrite the rules of the web?

Since Google’s announcements on Chromes update impact on third-party cookies, LinkedIn and industry publications have have been full of a spectrum of opinions on the potential impact. The diversity of viewpoints is a direct result of the purposely vague wording Google uses in its announcements. For example does the phrase “will not support” mean? Does that mean it won’t actively provide an ID based solution for targeting, measurement and optimisation but other parties could do so, or does it mean it will actually block anyone attempting to do so?

Half the market seems to think, why would Google allow someone to benefit from IDs when they cant using FLOC but the other half think that there is potential for other technologies to use a blend of deterministic and probabilistic modelling to do so. However, very few are considering the possibility the plan as it stands won’t come to fruition in early 2022.

James Rosewell at Marketer for an Open Web is doing an excellent job of raising awareness of the potentially catastrophic impact the proposed changes would have across the entire ecosystem. His lobbying of the CMA has triggered an investigation and things could develop in the coming weeks.

This would also likely be backed by the government who post Brexit can move much quicker to enforce regulation and are keen to create an advantage for the UK over Europe in all things tech. This may not be the disaster it may first appear for Google as they could then position the regulators as the blockers against them increasing privacy and it would provide licence for them to continue business as usual.

You might think: does it really matter? Google said testing showed FLOC showed only a 5% drop off versus cookies. However, the test was flawed as the FLOC control group used data that would be blocked by the proposed changes to optimise performance. When you think about it to expect similar results from a methodology that groups browsers into a single cohort (i.e. a browser cannot simultaneously be in multiple cohorts) once a week and provides reporting with up to a 48 hour lag doesn’t seem realistic.

Imagine trying to optimise campaigns outside the walled gardens with no ability to track properly nor any audience insights. You might know you’ve reach 60% of a cohort but have no idea which 60% and no ability to create an ongoing journey through sequential messaging and retargeting. Obviously, this means some of the companies within Google including DV360 and GCM will be unable to operate as they do now.

They are the sacrificial lambs to protect the much more lucrative search and YouTube income streams. Both products have experienced chronic under investment in recent times and there are strong rumours that Google are looking to sell as a token gesture to appease competition commissions.

Given the impact of Chrome updates won’t be felt until 2022 before you charge into a project to change everything you do in line with the planned changes you may want to see how the legal situation unfolds in the next few weeks.